Supreme Court Appeals For Lori Berenson
In February 2002, the Supreme Court of Peru upheld Lori’s conviction and 20-year sentence by four votes to one. The five-judge panel dismissed her appeal that she was innocent of all charges and was imprisoned solely for her beliefs. The dissenting opinion, offered by Judge Cabala, President of the Supreme Court, argued that there was no evidence to convict Lori for collaboration and instead urged a conviction with the lesser charge of illicit association with a significant reduction in the magnitude of sentence.
Dr. Sandoval, Lori’s attorney, had argued that during the civil trial that began on August 28, 2000, there were numerous violations of fundamental due process and that no evidence was presented, nor was any testimony, to warrant a conviction. Dr. Sandoval said that the judges relied extensively on tainted evidence obtained from other prisoners under duress and threats of torture during the original military tribunals from 1995 to 1996. Dr. Sandoval has also noted that Chief Judge Ibazeta had biased against Lori two years earlier but that she refused to recuse herself from the case, and that the media, now recognized as corrupted by the discredited Fujimori and Montesinos regime, had created a very negative public image of Lori from which she could hardly free herself,
The United States Department of State, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch: Americas, Washington Office of Latin America, and the Organization of American States have all declared that the trials in the special civil courts for cases related to terrorism in Peru do not comply with international standards of justice and due process. Lori’s civil trial was no exception. During the three months of the public phase of the trial (March 20, 2001 to June 20, 2001) there were 33 sessions in the courtroom of the Court and during this time Lori faced the judges and prosecutors and answered their questions for more. 26 hours.
Did the two trials offer Lori due process?
No, none of the trials offered due process.
In January 1996 Lori was found guilty of treason and sentenced to life in prison by a secret “faceless” court while a hooded soldier kept pointing a rifle at her head. There was no process. These military tribunals have been condemned by the US State Department, Amnesty International, the Carter Center for Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch: Americas. In December 1998, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights declared that Lori Berenson was arbitrarily deprived of her liberty and that the government of Peru must take all necessary measures to remedy her unjust imprisonment.
The verdict was overturned and the sentence was thrown out in August 2000 after a review by the Supreme Council of Military Justice that finally admitted it lacked any evidence to support the charges. However, instead of releasing her, Lori’s case was transferred to the Special Peruvian Civil Court for Terrorism. According to the US Department of State annual national reports, the trials in these courts “do not meet international standards of openness, fairness, and due process.” The Organization of American States, the United Nations, and other international organizations agree with this. Specifically, the Inter-American Court of the Organization of American States ruled in a 1999 case that Peru’s anti-terrorist laws violate due process and that any trial conducted under these laws violates the American Convention on Human Rights. Lori’s civil trial was conducted by remnants of the Fujimori regime.
Violations of Peruvian and international laws in the military trial
Lori is one of the thousands of defendants whose trials have not met international standards in laws and conventions ratified by Peru and mentioned in Article 105 of its own 1993 Constitution. The following are the four international treaties that Peru has violated:
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ratified in 1978)
- The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (ratified in 1988)
- The Inter-American Convention on Human Rights (ratified in 1978)
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (ratified in 1948)
The following are some of the rights violated in the case of Lori Berenson in her military court:
International treaties and laws
- The right to be notified of the charges
- The right to know all the charges against the accused before the trial is completed
- The right to consultation with the defense council
- The right against self-incrimination
- The right to confront witnesses contrary to the accused
- The right to be present while evidence to the contrary is presented to the accused
- The right to adequate time to prepare a defense
- The right to a trial free from outside influences
- The right to be accused of crimes recognized as criminal according to international standards of justice
- The right to have the appeal heard by judges free from outside influence and government manipulation.
- The right of the accused in an appeal process to know the argument of the adversary
- The right to be detained in a manner consistent with the rules prohibiting cruel punishment
- The right to apply for habeas habeas to an independent court
- The right to prosecution (indictment) prepared by a prosecutor
- The need for the prosecutor and the investigating judge to keep their functions separate
- The right of the accused to be present during the search of his home